'French hostages blockedby US' say Iraqi Sunnis

17th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

DOHA, Sept 17 (AFP) - The Committee of the Ulema, Iraq's top Sunni religious organisation, accused the US Army on Friday of hampering efforts to secure the release of two French journalists kidnapped on August 20.

DOHA, Sept 17 (AFP) - The Committee of the Ulema, Iraq's top Sunni religious organisation, accused the US Army on Friday of hampering efforts to secure the release of two French journalists kidnapped on August 20.  

"We are under the impression that the American forces do not want the hostages to be freed because each time we get near a solution, these forces push for a military escalation," said Mohammed Ayash al-Kubaisi, the group's representative abroad.  

"We believe these forces have political aims, seeking to create a chaotic situation which does not contribute to progress," Kubaisi told AFP while on a visit to Qatar.  

The release of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who were seized with their Syrian driver, Mohammed al-Jundi, "needs a secure atmosphere, which has not been the case since we had the first positive signs for their release."  

Kubaisi referred to US bombardment earlier this month of the Latifiya region, "once they learnt that the two French hostages were there", souring the atmosphere and "blocking the path to a settlement that was underway".  

Radio France Internationale correspondent Chesnot and Le Figaro reporter Georges Malbrunot were snatched in Latifiya, south of Baghdad, by the Islamic Army in Iraq, which has claimed the murder of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni.  

"I was there (in Latifiya) and I saw the situation. Residents saw (internationally) banned bombs falling on the heads of their children," said Kubaisi.  

"Nobody can respond to our calls when the US forces are holding entire towns hostage and do not want to halt their bombardment," said Kubaisi, who added that he was unsure of the journalists' current whereabouts.  

The Muslim scholar urged France to press for the release of thousands of Iraqi men and women held by US and Iraqi authorities.  

"That would have a positive impact on the kidnappers and make them feel they (the Iraqis) have not been abandoned or that the whole world is only interested in the foreign hostages," he said.  

France's Defence Minister Michele Alliot Marie said on Thursday she had information which led her to believe that the French hostages held for nearly a month were still alive.  

"We have had information which allow us to think that, without having concrete proof, that our hostages are alive, in good health and safe," she told the daily Le Parisien.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

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